Beyoncé’s suffering makes a difference, so can yours

As usual, Beyoncé inspired me.

I rushed home after I was worshipping with our South Broad congregation to try to catch the second half of the Super Bowl and I missed the halftime show. Krissy and I watched it the next day at the office, and we skipped past Coldplay and Bruno Mars to get the headliner: the queen.

I wrote, and we spoke a lot, about her 2014 release, so it’s exciting that she’s back in the game. And it seems like she’s continuing to move in a direction that the events over the last several years have moved many people of color. The Guardian said the song she debuted during halftime, “Formation,” was “a rallying cry,” “a black consciousness masterpiece.” The author further elaborated, calling it her “blackest song yet.” Rap Genius notes that it is fitting that it was released during Black History Month, one day after what would have been Trayvon’s 21st birthday.


We can talk about race, identity, and what it all means later (here’s one post); but but there’s something else that’s here. Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, on a floating police car, Queen Bey is clearly making a strong statement. In this surprising and ambitious track, Beyoncé heralds her own blackness and the suffering of black people in the U.S. And that is inspiring to me and to many others.

And it is inspiring to me, not just because racial reconciliation matters and is even central to one of the proverbs of Circle of Hope, but because Beyoncé turned her suffering into something more. She didn’t ignore it, despite her wealth and success, she embraced it and did something with it. My point isn’t to defend “Formation,” but rather to note that Beyoncé took her suffering and said something with it. I’m moved by how she entered into her pain.

That’s one of the points of Lent, if you ask me. And especially this season with Circle of Hope, we want to note how our suffering makes a difference. I think it needs to make a difference because it is inevitable. There’s no avoiding it. And Jesus probably won’t just lift it all away. Everyone hurts and feels pain. It’s part of our humanity.

I think Beyoncé is getting there herself. Turning her own pain into something with meaning. This is about her experience and what life has been like for her and the people around her. It’s hard not to be compelled by it.

Likewise, your suffering and your pain, and how Jesus has formed it, is compelling. It’s not didactic, it’s not intellectual, it’s not up for debate. It’s real, it’s part of your body. Jesus, through his life and his death, gives our suffering meaning and purpose. He uses his own suffering to all of us.

During Lent, some of us use fasting to further engage with our suffering and tangibly feel it when we’ve programed ourselves not to. You may want to try it this season, see what you can let go and give up in order to feel your pain and let God make it into something new.

The end of the story here isn’t just making meaning of our suffering, it’s resurrection, it’s revolution. Beyoncé isn’t just expressing her pain, she’s trying to change the world. I think Jesus did that through his death and resurrection and keeps doing it today through us. It starts with suffering though. Let’s journey together this season.


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